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Tiger Stars has five years of success in elementaries

For five years now, the Tiger Stars program has been helping Farmington's elementary kids understand what's right and what's wrong, and how to act accordingly.

The idea behind the program is that there are some core values every person should have: Respect. Honesty and trust. Courage. Responsibility. And generally, most families teach those characteristics. Kids usually learn those behaviors at home.

But sometimes it doesn't hurt to have a little positive reinforcement at school, too.

That's where the Tiger Stars program comes into play in Farmington's elementary schools.

Student advocate Lisa Sammlar has overseen the Tiger Stars program at her building since it's inception.

Like the students it benefits, the Tiger Stars program has grown and changed in the past five years. It started, she said, as a districtwide program. That much hasn't changed.

Initially, the Tiger Stars program was set up to teach students fundamental personality characteristics -- respect, citizenship, courage, self discipline and more. About that time, a new curriculum covering those character-building skills was made available free to School District 192. There was a core set of values, but each school was given the flexibility to teach those values in whatever manner worked for the students.

The basis of the program is that every month focuses on one particular character trait. For instance, September's trait was responsibility; this month, students are learning self discipline. In November, they'll learn about chemical awareness and making healthy choices.

All of the student advocates participated in the program in one way or another. In some schools, Sammlar said, the student advocate would go in and teach a short lesson in a classroom. Up at NTES, Sammlar talks to each grade level, as a whole, then lets the teachers teach their own lessons to their classes.

Regardless, every administrator or teacher in the building is watching how students implement the characteristic of the month, every day. If one of the adults sees a student going out of his or her way to do something that exhibits the characteristic of the month, that student is given a Tiger Stars Award.

"(Each school) might have different award programs that catch children for being good versus punishing people for being bad," Sammlar said. "We want them to practice these positive character traits, so we try to catch them when they are doing them."

At North Trail, students who get are named Tiger Stars each week get a popcorn party with principal Steven Geis.

This year, the Tiger Stars program is expanding. In addition to the curriculum, a literacy piece has been offered to go along with the classroom lessons. It's a way to not only reach kids verbally, but to also promote reading.

Though every building handles its program just a little differently, the core values taught each month are the same from building to building. That was one of the original advantages to the program, and one that continues to be a success point.

"Really, we wanted consistency between the buildings. We all had our own programs in place, but they weren't consistent," Sammlar said. "With the shifting of boundaries and such, we want students to be able to learn a common lesson, kind of like a common language. We wanted to build that bridge between the buildings and the community."

The scope of the program shifts and changes almost annually, but it's one Sammlar says is successful, and will likely continue to shift and change as the years go by. Those changes are what makes Tiger Stars an important learning piece not only in the classrooms, but in the lives of the kids.

"We all take this very seriously. We know that social skills sometimes need to be taught at school because they're not always taught at the home," she said. "And this is just so important, because they are going to use these characteristics from kindergarten through their whole lives."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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